A child-friendly introduction to the challenging work of knowing one’s mind.




The child narrator in this story has a Want Monster. Want Monsters aren’t bad; everyone has one. However, this one has grown much too big.

The protagonist’s Want Monster, Oskar, is “ginormous.” When the child, depicted as a pale-skinned, freckled stick figure with a large round head and three strands of sticking-up hair, eats a cupcake, Oskar insists on four more. When the child plays a video game, Oskar forces continued play, to the point of repetitive stress injury to the thumbs. The child realizes that always listening to Oskar leads to unhappiness, but fighting or outrunning Oskar is impossible. The child tries instead to just let Oskar be Oskar without always reacting to him. It’s difficult, but over time Oskar shrinks into “Oskarcito,” a tiny Want Monster. Published by a press known for its titles on personal growth and spirituality, this picture book successfully introduces children to the concept of using mindfulness to observe one’s thoughts and desires. With its universal message of taming the impulse to overindulge, this title is relevant for both Buddhist and secular audiences. The humor, bright color palette, and sketchlike quality of the illustrations keep the Want Monsters from being too scary for young readers. However, because the action in the illustrations takes place on just the bottom third of the page, they can at times be hard to read.

A child-friendly introduction to the challenging work of knowing one’s mind. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61180-365-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Shambhala

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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